Re: Forming group, Advice?
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2007 01:30:36 -0800 (PST)
Dear Nathan & folks,

I am catching up with this list after an absence and noticed that while there's been a lot of discussion on your thread, some of your questions haven't been addressed yet (at least on-list).

We have been focused on creating a rural, farming, sustainable Intentional community here outside of Asheville, in western NC. As it turns out, what we have collectively envisioned more closely resembles Cohousing than traditional "intentional community or ecovillage" (although there is some crossover and ours will probably be a "hybrid" of the 3). Its ironic but several of us have heard of cohousing and dismissed it out of the mistaken belief that cohousing meant "many people sharing one house" We're finding out that the community we're designing looks more like cohousing than any other model!

I am wondering about cohousing consultation groups/firms. Our group is at the stage where we need some professional guidance especially with regards to financial/legal structure options, choosing location (local zoning, etc.), prioritization and general planning. Unfortunately, among our groups collective skills and abilities, these are our week areas!

   A couple of questions:

1) How important is to have such consultants close to our location as opposed to on the other side of the continent?

You happen to be in luck, 'cuz one of the best consultants out there on legal options and how to get started creating a community lives in your back yard! Contact Diana Christian at Earthaven ecovillage, c/o <communities [at]>. Diana is the editor of Communities magazine and author of the book Creating a Life Together that covers a lot of the questions you are asking here.

Obviously the more consultants you can find in your region the better, for all sorts of reasons. (Personally i focus my facilitation work in the region from Seattle to San Francisco, that i can reach in one day's travel by train from my home in Eugene.) If occasionally you need to bring in someone from farther away it might be worth it. For example, i've gotten on an airplane a few times to work with Central Austin Cohousing in Texas, because i didn't know of anyone in their region to refer them to for what they needed.

Sometimes you can get your questions answered by phone, without bringing someone in from far away. When my community was revamping our bylaws and basic framework, we found someone in Hawai'i who gave us excellent advice on a few phone calls. That won't work for skills training for your group, but it can work for technical information.

2) How is cost of service generally determined? What could we realistically expect by way of agreements/ arrangements?

Hugely variable. I work on a gift economy basis, and that's rather unusual. Most consultants have standard fees or sliding scales that they tell you up front.

You can also send someone(s) in your group to a workshop of some kind, and then have the person present their learning to the rest of your group upon their return.

  3) What questions should we ask prospective consultants?

I'd say the biggest question is: Does their expertise fit what you need? Also: Have they worked with other similar groups? Are they willing to offer references for their work? What is their fee structure, and what does it cover (face time, follow-up, travel time, handouts or other written resources, etc.)?

4) Do consultants ever work with groups in exchange for a private parcel (to build on, hold or sell) in the cohousing community they help develop?

Hmm, what an interesting question. There are plenty of professionals who have become residents in the communities they helped develop (architects, developers, facilitators, and so on), but i believe the norm in these cases is for that person to follow the same route as other members in terms of joining. The exception might be if the person was the landowner at the time the group started. I'm not sure on this question, that's just my best guess.

Also on this thread, Ann O'Quinn asked:

I was wondering if anyone knew how to go about finding a non-profit that would serve as a fiscal agent or "sponsor" for fundraising purposes

A regional intentional communities nonprofit agreed to be fiscal agent for donations to the community i live in. We haven't taken them up on it thus far, but appreciate having the structure in place.



Walnut St. Co-op


Tree Bressen
1680 Walnut St.
Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 484-1156
tree [at]

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